Aidan Moffat's underlying health problems
I felt a bit rough last Thursday night but put it down to the incredibly long day spent exclusively with my son, which would be enough to wear out the toughest of tough guys. Probably just tired, I thought, and went to bed at about 1 AM – an early night for me – thinking I’d be fine come the morning. I woke up two and a half hours later, dripping in sweat and unable to breathe.
I did what we’ve all been advised to do in such circumstances: I phoned the NHS helpline. The incredibly calm lady talked me through the symptoms. Fever? Yes, absolutely. Breathing problems? Definitely (gasp, gasp). Shivers? Oh, aye… and so on, until we moved onto the next stage where she asked me about those "underlying health problems" that have been causing swine flu complications and, in a few cases, deaths. Have I ever been treated for cancer? Do I have kidney problems? Am I HIV positive? No, I explained. Apart from a gradually deflating beer belly, a couple of ligament injuries, and a general lack of exercise, I’m a pretty healthy guy. Good, she says. You are not in a high-risk group and a doctor will phone you within the next four hours.
Forty-five minutes later and my breathing has become so strained that I’ve got the phone in my hand and I’m poised to call for an ambulance. No matter how hard and how often I gulp at the air, nothing seems to stay in my lungs. My girlfriend thinks I’m having some sort of panic attack and continually tells me to calm down and take it easy, while I wheeze between desperate chokes, “I’m… perfectly calm… but I can’t… FUCKING… BREATHE!” Were I not fearing for my life, I’d probably find it funny.
But before I can make the 999 call, the doctor rings. They can’t tell you one hundred percent if you’ve got swine flu over the phone, of course, but it certainly sounds like I have all the symptoms, so my five-day course of Tamiflu will be waiting in one of only two pharmacies in the area that are serving as outlets first thing in the morning. Take two daily and finish the course, and in the meantime take some Paracetamol to help with the fever.
So what’s the fabled porcine plague like? I’m happy to report that, after that initial hyperventilation episode, I only suffered those ‘relatively mild symptoms’ that they talk about on the news, and it really wasn’t that bad. The first couple of days are fairly hellish, but Tamiflu does seem to be remarkably effective and after the first four pills I began to feel reasonably alive again. On the third night, I awoke several times in the night to find that I was drenched in sweat and had to change my pyjamas at least twice, and after that I was left feeling a bit rubbish in general. If I’m to be honest though, I’ve endured worse hangovers. However, in an attempt to contain the virus, I was ordered by the doctor to stay at home, quarantined in the spare room if I wanted to avoid infecting my very young child and his mum. So I stayed there for a few days with my laptop and exhausted the BBC iPlayer, occasionally sneaking out to the bathroom. Sometimes I’d pass my son in the hall and he would stretch his arms out towards me, which as you probably know is baby sign language for "Please hold me". I couldn’t, obviously, so I had to shun his advances and watch his face crumple in disappointment as I unsuccessfully tried to explain that it was for his own good. So you can add a little heartbreak to those relatively mild symptoms too.
By the time I felt almost well again, I was so excited that I attempted to bound out of my sickbed in a joyous, balletic fashion that was clearly too ambitious for a thirty-six-year-old man who’d been lying down for ninety-six hours. Something in my back which nature had designed to be robust suddenly snapped and popped, causing the most horrific pain I’ve ever known, and I fell back on the bed, screaming like my son when he’s sitting in a nappy full of his own dirt. So I stayed in the spare room for a few days more. One morning I awoke to find that half of one of my left molars was missing too. Where it is or how it became detached is a mystery, but pretty soon I’ll have to accept that it requires professional treatment. And I really don’t like the dentist.
I suppose I only have myself to blame, but it does feel as though I’m beginning to fall apart as the end of my fourth decade approaches. So I have silently vowed to enjoy a more active lifestyle as soon as I’m back to normal, and I may even take the clothes off the exercise bike in the hall and use it for the purpose for which it was intended. I don’t think that’ll help my thinning hair, though.